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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 08:53 GMT
Legal quest to see Iraq advice
Katharine Gun
Katharine Gun' s lawyers failed to gain access to the Iraq advice
The government is to face fresh demands in court for the disclosure of the legal advice its senior lawyers gave to justify the war in Iraq.

Following the collapse of the case against former GCHQ worker Katharine Gun, lawyers for anti-war protesters are demanding access to the advice.

Ms Gun's lawyers had asked to see the attorney general's advice to support her argument that the war was illegal.

Lord Goldsmith said dropping the case had nothing to do with her demands.

Environmental group Greenpeace is to demand sight of the advice in court so that it can defend 14 of its activists facing charges from an anti-war protest last year.

It's probably the most important legal opinion given in the past 50 years
Lord Alexander of Weedon

Two anti-war protesters charged with offences following a demonstration at RAF Fairford are also to make a formal request for access to the advice.

Kate Harrison of Greenpeace said it was "essential" for the protesters' trial to see what the attorney general thought.

Lord Goldsmith issued advice publicly on 17 March last year that, based on three UN resolutions, the use of force against Iraq was legal.

However the dispute rests on private advice he gave the government the month before, which, Greenpeace claims, was that the war was illegal.

Questions continue

Barrister Lord Alexander of Weedon said most lawyers did not believe Lord Goldsmith's published opinion was credible.

"It's probably the most important legal opinion given in the past 50 years and the summary doesn't stand up to scrutiny so far," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Labour MP Ross Cranston, the last solicitor general, disagreed and said there was no need to see the attorney general's full advice because "we know what the arguments are"- Saddam Hussein's non-compliance with UN resolutions.

The government is expected to carry on refusing to make the advice public, BBC political correspondent James Landale said.

Regardless of who wins, it looks like ministers are still going to be facing questions about why Britain went to war, he added.

Necessity defence

Ms Gun was sacked from her job as a translator for revealing a secret e-mail.

She was cleared of a charge under the Official Secrets Act on Wednesday after the prosecution offered no evidence.

She claimed the e-mail was from US spies asking British officers to tap phones of nations voting on war against Iraq.

She was expected to use a defence of "necessity".

But the Daily Telegraph's legal editor Joshua Rozenberg said it was one thing for her to argue that what she did "was necessary to preserve life in Iraq" but "quite another" for anti-war protesters to do the same.

"I think that's rather far-fetched," he told Today.

Meanwhile, ex-Cabinet minister Clare Short continued to state her claims that British agents bugged United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the run-up to the war.

Clare Short
Clare Short described the response to her claims as 'extraordinary'

As some Labour members accused her of pursuing her own political agenda, Home Secretary David Blunkett refused to rule out an investigation into her apparent breach of the Official Secrets Act, while also casting doubt on her claims.

Ms Short has written a full front page article in Saturday's edition of the Independent repeating her claims.

She dismisses as "laughable" Tony Blair's accusation that her action had jeopardised national security.

"The response of the establishment has been extraordinary," she says.

"They are faced with two allegations: one that the attorney general's legal advice authorising war in Iraq was manipulated in dubious ways, the other that Britain is intruding on the privacy of Mr Annan's phone calls.

"There were howls of outrage that the British people should be informed that the powers of their state were being misused to dishonour the Secretary General of the United National."

Anti-war rallies

She also wrote that there had been "very little comment" on the other allegation surrounding the authorisation of a war which led to the deaths of 20,000 people.

The Stop The War Coalition is holding its annual conference on Saturday in London ahead of a series of demonstrations aimed at showing that people still opposed the war and its aftermath.

Hundreds of delegates from across the UK were attending the conference, which will be addressed by veteran anti-war campaigner Tony Benn and expelled Labour MP George Galloway.

The BBC's John Andrew
"The government insists it has nothing to hide"

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